I’m an almond roaster from way back, but the COVID-19 pandemic has really allowed to sharpen my game.  For starters there’s the surplus of time. And then there’s the need to have something vaguely healthy to snack on with which to fill up said time.

Prior to COVID my ritual was simple: go to Costco (or even better if you’re in Vancouver, Persia Foods), get a monster bag of raw almonds, spread said almonds on a cookie sheet (that’s a sheet pan for our American friends), a few tablespoons of olive oil a dash of oregano or Za’tar or even Shimchi Togarashi, and whamo! Throw them pan in a 350°F oven for 8 mins, give the almonds a stir, then back in for 5-ish mins and you have a pretty easy delightful treat.

And everything was…fine. But one day, lost in the UBC Endowment lands I came across a magical troll who gave me the secret to perfectly roasted almonds. It was either that, or I spent hours wasting my time on the internet going over recipes… I can’t 100% remember. The point is I’ve now become an almond roasting master with one easy, but off-the-wall move: put water on the almonds before roasting, and oil on them after.

It sounds counterintuitive: oil always help something roast and water always hurt it (or at least steams it), right? Well 99 times out of 100, yes, but those crazy almonds seem to be the Gladwellian outlier. So here’s the technique: get your cookie sheet full of raw almonds (4 cups or so), but put them in a large heat proof bowl first. Boil 1.5 Tbsps of water and dissolve 1/5 tsp of good sea salt (use Maldon if you’re fancy) and pour that mixture in the bowl. Toss the almonds, then put them on the cookie sheet and then put them in the 350°F oven. Give ’em and shake at about 8 minutes and then let them roast for a 5-8 minutes more (keep your eye on them). Take them out and put them back in the bowl (give it a quick wipe prior with a paper towel to get rid of the excess moisture) and then put 1-2 tbsps of decent olive oil on them and give them a good toss. You’d think it would make them oily, but the warms almonds just soak it up. Now add any seasonings you like (Old Bay is nice too), but even a few pinches more of Maldon is great.

The end result is almonds that are crispier than normal, have a nice built-in saltiness, and take seasonings better.

Now you too are an almond master.